most significant event of Ty and Ian’s young lives occurred on a
Friday evening in Ian’s backyard when they were both ten years old. The boys were deeply engrossed in playing “war,” loosely
based on Ty’s grandfather’s reminiscences about his time in the
Pacific Theatre. The two
friends had just captured a Japanese forward command post (an old 1957
Plymouth Belvedere that had been in the yard when Ty’s family had
moved in before he was born) and from here they planned on taking the
bomb factory (an abandoned Ford assembly plant that was across the alley
from the backyard) before fighting their way back to Allied command (the
living room—Dukes of Hazard
started at 8:00 and neither would let anything stand in their way of
watching the latest Duke boys’ exploits).
They expected heavy resistance, and as they made their final
preparations for their assault, they gripped their British manufactured
Sten 9mm submachine guns tightly.
The boys could hear the
faint sound of footsteps and low muffled voices beyond the crumbling
cinderblock wall that was the final obstacle between them and their
goal. Ty slid down a little
further into the driver’s seat of the Plymouth and made a series of
hand signals to Ian; he nodded gravely and slid noiselessly out the
passenger side of the vehicle onto his belly. Putting the length of lead pipe before him, he began a
forward crawl over the wreckage of the yard toward the wall while Ty
covered him from his position with the stick he had at the ready to
dispatch any foes that might impede the captain’s progress.
Once Ian had taken his
place, his back against the wall, lead pipe to his shoulder and at the
ready, eyes scanning the yard for any signs of enemy movement, Ty exited
the Plymouth where a driver’s door had once been and ran with his head
down to join his commanding officer.
From their position on the wall they could hear the voices more
clearly as well as a strange rattle followed by a long hiss, like air
being let out of a tire. Ty’s
heart beat rapidly, totally engrossed in the reality of war.
“Can you see them?” he asked Capt. John Lawson, decorated
veteran and hero of countless campaigns in Europe and the Pacific.
Ian had poked his head over the wall and had the pipe trained on
the enemy soldiers. “There’s
only three,” he replied to his longtime partner and most trusted
companion Major Adam King, a grizzled old vet who, in addition to
accompanying Capt. Lawson on virtually all his victories, had also
distinguished himself in combat during the first World War.
many times have we found ourselves in this exact position,
Ian wondered. Behind enemy
lines, hopelessly outnumbered, and faced with a mission that would prove
impossible for an entire regiment.
Yet, against all odds, the two excelled at finding ways to snatch
victory from the jaws of defeat—and almost always narrowly.
These two war-hardened soldiers were well known throughout the
armed forces for their ferocity in battle and their flawless service
I thought it would be better guarded than that.
Are they Japs or Krauts?” Ty asked.
The boys’ knowledge of the Axis forces was divided into the two
categories that Ty had heard of from his grandfather and from his
Russian neighbor, Mr. Groza, who loved the two as if they were his own.
Mr. Groza would frequently sit on his porch getting very drunk
and tell the two warmongers about the Battle of Stalingrad, which he had
seen when he was about their age, the accounts his uncle had given him
of the fighting in Poland, as well as any other war story he had heard
while growing up. The boys
would sit and listen for hours, gaining fuel for the further adventures
of Captain Lawson and Major King. Mr.
Groza, ever indulgent of the duo, would sometimes send the boys on
secret missions to procure supplies (cat food for his old tom, Viktor)
deep behind enemy lines (the grocery store two blocks away).
As the boys learned from the older men’s dissertations,
“Japs” were fierce, noble warriors bound by honor and duty who would
never, under any circumstances, surrender; “Krauts” were
cold-blooded murderers who did not differentiate between soldiers and
Ian was silent for a bit,
still peeking over the wall with a puzzled look on his face while Ty
made a last check of his weapons and ammunition.
He had only a few bullets and two grenades (Mickey’s Big Mouth
bottles that they had found in Ty’s trash can—his father’s
casualties of another, unrelated battle that had been fought the night
before); this was going to be another close one.
“They look like…bandits
or bank robbers or something,” Ian said.
Curious, Ty poked his head over the wall, careful not to draw any
hidden sniper’s attention. He
saw three teenagers, all masked with bandanas and armed with cans of
spray paint, making odd pictures on the walls of the assembly plant.
The boys watched the taggers work in rapt silence, slowly
forgetting their mission and their impending engagement in Hazard
County, Georgia. “What are they drawing?” Ty asked Ian.
“It looks like just words
but I can’t read it,” Ian replied in a whisper, his brow knit in
concentration as if he could will the words to reveal themselves into
“Maybe it’s a Kraut
code,” Ty said in his gruff Major King voice in an effort to draw Ian
back into the war. Ian quickly shot him a frown to demonstrate that he no longer
was interest in the mission and, reddening a little, Ty abandoned his
Sten 9mm in order to pull himself up onto the wall for a better vantage
They stayed on the wall,
transfixed, for several minutes as the tags quickly took shape; the
long, sweeping arcs flowing into others as the teens completed their
outlines and then began the filling in process, expertly blending one
color into the next. Both
boys realized that they were witnessing something forbidden—their
young age meant that the memories of punishment for writing on walls was
still vividly etched into their minds—but the grace and skill that the
teens demonstrated was what held their attention.
While neither of them had the words for it, they were silently
aware that this was an act of both defiance and beauty; a way of making
something ugly like an abandoned factory a work of art.
“The one in the middle says ‘Seen,’ I think,” whispered
“Yeah. What’s that
supposed to mean? I can’t
read what the other two say. That
guy’s making a Pac-man, though,” he said pointing to the youth on
the right. “What time is
it, Major?” Ian said, falling back into his Captain Lawson voice.
“Almost zero hour,
Cap,” Ty guessed. “Zero
hour” was 8:00—they had to move quickly in order to complete their
“Give me one of your
grenades,” Ian said, sliding down the wall.
Ty complied and handed him over a Mickey’s bottle.
Ian pulled the imaginary pin and whispered, “We’ll reconvene
at command. Get ready to move, Major.”
He then turned from the wall, backed up a few paces and threw the
grenade in the general direction of the teens.
Both the boys were half way across the yard before they heard the
bottle break on the wall of the plant.
By the time the shouts and curses reached their ears, they were
safely inside Ian’s back porch, staying low so as not to be seen if
the teens decide to investigate by looking over the wall.
The breaking bottle had
drawn the attention of Mr. Groza, who staggered tipsily out his back
door (his own back porch had fallen off years ago) and began shouting at
the teens in a mixture of Russian and highly accented English.
The teens launched some insults and threats at the old man in the
language of the city and eventually moved off.
The two boys waited until Mr. Groza went back inside his
falling-down house, muttering curses, before standing up giggling.
“Another mission accomplished, Major.
“Nothing to it, Cap.
Good thing Comrade Groza gave us some cover while we fell back.
Let’s hit the mess hall before we go to command.”
The next morning the boys
examined the tags in closer detail.
The teenagers had left the empty cans of paint where they lay
after the assault and Ty and Ian discovered that two of them, one red,
one blue, still had some paint in them.
Ian was the first to try it slowly painting his name in stick
letters devoid of any sort of style.
He handed the can to Ty but he was afraid his mom would see his
name on the wall directly across their backyard.
“So write something else,” Ian reasoned.
Taking the can and shaking it as he had seen the teens the night
before, Ty wrote the most vulgar obscenity he could think of—a word he
had heard his father utter daily but one that he himself had never said
aloud for fear that God, or worse, his mother, might hear him and strike
him dead. Ian collapsed in
laughter and upon his recovery the two ran away down the alley,
clutching their cans of Krylon as if they were the most precious
treasure in the world.
Neither of the boys knew it
then but that small act of deviance changed them forever.
That simple activity of writing a single word on the wall of an
abandoned factory would come to shape them and dictate the course that
the rest of their short lives would take.
Ty left school with his
mind focused on the final project of his high school career.
He spent the three-block walk to the train that would take him
home with his head down instead of looking at every surface for new tags
like normal. He was only
seeing what he needed to negotiate the walk; nothing else registered in
his focused mind. All his
thoughts were on writing the paper about the brewing ecological disaster
facing the planet in order not to receive an incomplete in Civics that
would keep him from graduating.
He had read all the sources
that he felt he needed to on the subject and had decided to adopt the
stance of the source that he intended to quote most, one Jefferson Hoff
who had authored the book Our Doomed World.
Hoff was an environmentalist whose view was, as his title would
imply, that humans had gone too far in their wasteful ways and had come
too far in poisoning the planet for anyone to do anything about it.
Even if the change were to happen overnight, it was already far
Ty’s intention to agree
with this rather bleak assessment was not because he felt strongly about
it (he found the author to be a tad on the crazy side; he reminded him
of the guy who always wore “The End is Nigh” sandwich board and
frequented the lower downtown area) but because it seemed the easiest
way to fulfill the requirements of the paper which included a closing
argument about how you feel about your topic. As Ty boarded the train, he decided that he would close his
paper with the argument for more post-consumer recycling; this was
something Hoff had said should have been implemented fifty years ago.
On the train instead of
adding to the chaotic collection of illegible pen tags, as was his usual
routine, he pulled out his Civics notebook and started to write a hasty
outline and a preliminary introduction.
He was so focused on finishing this project and putting high
school behind him, he almost missed his stop.
Scrambling to jam his notebook back into his already overfilled
backpack, he barely made it through the doors before they closed.
He slammed into a large black man that was talking to someone on
the platform. “Shit, man; sorry,” Ty shot, putting his hand up to touch
the man’s arm. This
gesture was one that always accompanied Ty’s apologies, it was an
involuntary reaction that Ian had unsuccessfully tried to break him of
for years (“People don’t like to be handled,” Ian had explained
when they were still boys. “Someday
that’s gonna get you in trouble.”
On more than one occasion, it had, but Ty’s habit still
“Get the fuck up off me,
mothafucka!” the giant bellowed as he swatted Ty’s arm away with the
back of his huge hand. Ty
backed up swiftly with his hands up in front of him in a placating
gesture and turned on his heel as soon as he was clear of this Goliath.
He then picked up his pace and ran, his lanky frame cutting
easily through the crowd of people on the platform.
He didn’t have time for this.
He could feel both men’s eyes burning holes into the back of
his skull while he threaded through the throng, slinging his backpack up
to his shoulders. For the
rest of the distance Ty forgot his paper and instead contemplated the
deteriorating state of the city and its residents’ intolerance of each
covered the last few blocks to his house in a light jog. He cut down the
alley, through his backyard and exploded into the kitchen. He began to unpack his bag, laying out the books in the order
he intended to cite them, and then went into the bathroom, desperate to
relieve his straining bladder. His
thoughts alternated between what he needed to say in his paper and the
vague hunger he just now realized he was feeling.
He resolved to get a snack and then get to work.
He exited the bathroom, returned to the kitchen, sat down at the
table and immediately started to write without ever getting the food
that his body was telling him he needed.
It was just as well because he hadn’t washed his hands.
and stretched not realizing until then that he had just spent the last
several hours hunched over his books and papers.
As he crossed the kitchen to turn on the light, he idly wondered
where Ian was and if he was coming over tonight.
had essentially moved into the house at the end of the boy’s junior
year. His mother, Beth, had
finally been removed from her house two blocks east after a lengthy
eviction process. Having
little money, no family, and little motivation to do anything for the
benefit of her or her child, Beth had applied for and received access to
project housing in the notorious Westside of Royal Park.
Ian had vehemently refused to accompany her, and Ty’s mother,
fearing that Ian would end up homeless, or worse, be forced to live in
Royal Park, had offered for him to move in with them.
didn’t protest. Her life
was spent in a narcotic stupor that had kept her isolated from reality
for years. She had always
been an abuser of various substances but it was heroin that eventually
received her full endorsement. Ian
had grown up in a frequently empty house and a world of screaming,
broken glass, hunger, and uncertainty.
He had learned at a very young age that his mother was no one he
could depend on and had set about making himself completely
self-sufficient. By the
time he and Ty discovered each other Ian could travel comfortably alone
through most of the city. He knew of secret spots that he would
eventually share with Ty, could speak a couple of phrases of Spanish and
Yiddish that aided his safe passage through New Montvale (commonly
referred to as the “Barrio”) and the Old Quarter, respectively, as
well as half a dozen places where a young boy could spend the day by
himself without attracting too much attention or answering awkward
questions. Of all the
places Ian knew, the library downtown was his favorite.
If his time wandering the streets alone had given him an
education into the way the city functioned and how to conduct himself,
then the library was his introduction to a much more traditional type of
education that he embarked upon of his own initiative long before he
ever attended school. It
was here he taught himself to read (aided by sitting in unnoticed on
some of the daycare sessions that covered the fundamentals of the
alphabet and the sounds they made) and from those days forward he was
never seen without a book somewhere on his person.
was never a problem for Ian. He
had distinguished himself as a gifted student immediately upon his
entry. His pace never
slowed and he coasted through all the honors courses, which earned him
several scholarships. Just
a week ago, he had received a letter informing him that he had been
accepted to The Art Institute of Pittsburgh based on the portfolio his
art teacher had helped him assemble.
It was Ian’s dream to get out of this city that held no future,
even if it meant going to another whose future was nearly as bleak.
Ian was ecstatic about this opportunity and had encouraged Ty to
come with him. Ty, who also did well in school (although nowhere near the
top of their class like Ian), had not given much thought to what he
would do after graduation. The
money was not there for him to attend college, and though he desperately
wanted to leave the dying city too, he could not help but feel that he
would be abandoning his mother who had devoted her life to his comfort.
grabbed his paper from where it lay on the scratched fifties style table
and walked across the kitchen to the refrigerator.
He read over what he had written while he rummaged around for
something to kill the ravenous hunger that he had successfully ignored
in his frenzy of writing. It
definitely wasn’t his best work but it was good enough; he reckoned
that it would be one of the better papers that Mr. Schmidt would read
from that class. Ty normally didn’t put off his assignments like this but
the mild spring was too much of a temptation; he and Ian had gone out
regularly and Ty’s schoolwork had taken a backseat to his desire to
all over the city. They had
spent the long winter sketching new burners
and both of them were anxious to perfect the styles that they had
was removing some leftover spaghetti from the night before when he heard
Ian come in the front. “Hey,”
he half yelled with his head still in the fridge, “where you been?”
Ian walked into the kitchen without his customary lopsided grin
and threw his bag on the still warm chair that Ty had vacated.
Ian was shorter than Ty with a more athletic build, but he
normally carried himself like one who was much bigger.
Now he was half stooped like he had received a blow to the mid
section and had a frown that looked out of place.
Ty waited for him to say something while he busied himself making
them something to eat. Ian
was determined to make him wait, apparently, because he sat down at the
table and stared vacantly toward the back door like he didn’t know
where he was.
aloofness startled Ty and he stopped what he was doing, “Hey, what’s
up? You alright?”
went to see my moms today,” Ian began flatly.
Ty immediately understood. Ian’s visits to Beth’s were
infrequent and always disappointing.
He waited patiently for his friend to elaborate.
Ty did not want him to feel like he had to say what he already
knew, that his mother had been wasted and unresponsive or strung out and
desperate for money to score again.
wanted to tell her when graduation was and that I had gotten accepted so
I went there after work.” Ian
was employed after school at Abraham’s, an antiquarian bookstore on
the edge of the Old Quarter. “She
was so wrecked that it took her a while for her to even notice that I
had come in. You should see
that place, man, what a shithole. It’s
amazing that people actually live there.
Once she recognized me, I told her about everything but she was
to know what I was saying. I
got pissed and left her mumbling something that I couldn’t make out…
There was shit on the floor, Ty. Human
shit, right there in her living room. I
almost stepped in it on my way out.
Man, I can’t wait to get out of this place,” he added, almost
always, Ty felt a small panic start at the mention of Ian’s departure.
He could not imagine life without him; they were like brothers
but ones who liked each other. Ty moved to his friend and touched his arm barely saying,
“I’m sorry, Ian.”
looked to where Ty’s hand rested on his bicep, between his shoulder
and elbow, and gazed up at his friend with the trace of a grin. “How many times have I told you about that,” he said
laughing a little. Ty
jerked his hand back and said automatically, “Sorry,” and reached
out to touch the same spot again before realizing what he was doing.
Both of them started to laugh as Ty returned his arm to his side.
“Someday, that action is gonna get your ass stomped,” Ian
said still chuckling and shaking his head.
that day was almost today,” he responded, launching into the story of
his near beat-down on the platform.
two busied themselves making dinner and the wave of uncharacteristic
melancholy seemed to leave Ian. After
they had eaten, however, he was silent and preoccupied.
Ty left him alone to his thoughts because he could think of
nothing to say and started to do the dishes.
Eventually, Ian got up from the table, grabbed a dishtowel from
the handle of the stove and started drying and putting away the dishes.
Mia tonight?” Ian inquired.
is working a double shift at the hospital and won’t be home until six
Then she won’t miss us this evening and we’ll have plenty of
time to make breakfast for her before she gets home,” Ian said
are we going?” Ty returned.
son. It’s gorgeous out
tonight. Plus, I saw this
place that’s nice and quiet where we can throw up some burners and not
feel rushed. It’s that
old mill over by where the river splits in Royal.
No one goes down there.”
not going bombing, I’ve got to do the school thing tomorrow and type
out this paper or I won’t graduate.
It was due today but I used my awesome powers of persuasion to
convince Mr. Schmidt that I needed an extension in order to meet my high
standards of excellence,” Ty explained, imitating the manner of speech
he had employed when asking Carl Schmidt to let him slide.
Schmidt is a soft touch and an idiot, apparently.
Why didn’t he give you ‘till Monday?
Didn’t he expect you to show the last day of your senior
year?” Ian asked innocently with a serious expression on his face.
Ty burst out laughing at this; neither of them had any intention
of showing up on Monday since it was just a make up day from the brutal
winter that had ravaged the area and none of the teachers had anything
planned other than movies or “free time.”
Everyone expected the school to be virtually empty except for
those unfortunate enough to have too many unexcused absences to go
can’t go. I’ve got to
get this done.” Ty was determined not to give in tonight.
He had already procrastinated enough on this assignment; bombing
the night away, as alluring as it sounded, was out of the question.
Besides, he thought, after I turn this in we can bomb every
night. “Tomorrow, for
sure,” he said diplomatically.
I’ve seen you type, you’re slow.
You won’t even be finished with that thing by tomorrow
night.” Ty was about to
respond when Ian held up his hand to stop him and said, “Look.
We go out tonight and I’ll type Schmidt’s paper in the
morning. I’ve got to work
at noon and if I’m at school, I’m more than half way there.”
Ty didn’t respond and his friend knew him well enough to know
he had already won. “Come
on, man. Are you telling me
that you’d rather waste your time sleeping than piecing?
Put up that one that you’ve been working on in your book. That shit is legend.”
is this place again?” Ty responded, after a couple of seconds pause,
watching the soapy water spiral down the drain.
former steel mill that Ian led Ty to through the labyrinth of
the ghetto was like most of the buildings in Royal Park, in desperate
need of being bulldozed before it fell in upon itself.
The mill had been abandoned sometime in the mid seventies when
the steel market in this region had collapsed and had stood these years
as a monument to the city’s decline.
It was poised at a branch in the river that surrounded Royal
Park, serving as a natural barrier that suited both the residents of the
neighboring boroughs and the city officials well; the intention had been
to keep the residents of Royal Park, which even in the city’s more
prosperous days had been the poorest area, somewhat contained.
first thing Ty noticed about the area was the fetid smell that came off
of the slimy, poisonous river, brought to them by a light wind from the
east. The smell had grown
stronger, almost overpowering, as the two drew closer.
“Jesus, Ian, it reeks over here,” he volunteered.
gave a brief laugh and just kept walking toward the towering ziggurat
that rose higher than any building for blocks.
The area was completely deserted; they had not seen a single
individual since they had climbed the fence that designated the mill’s
boundaries. Even for a
wasteland such as this Ty found it odd that no one was here.
This type of secluded area was usually a hub of shady activity,
especially at this late hour, but no one appeared to be around.
The two had no way of knowing, though they would soon find out,
that the city’s most powerful and untouchable gang leaders had
recently claimed this area for their own purposes.
the two reached the main building of the mill, Ian turned to Ty and
said, “What do you think? Virgin
territory.” It had not
escaped Ty’s notice that there were no signs of any recent writer
activity on any of the buildings. He
had recognized none of the names of the few pieces
that he had seen and he figured that they must have belonged to writers
long before their time. The
style of the pieces was an indication as well; the burners looked like
cave paintings in comparison to what even toys
threw up these days. “I
think it stinks here. And
why doesn’t anybody get up here?
I know, like, a dozen writers from The Park,” he said while
looking around, feeling uncomfortable and exposed in this foreign
says it smells too bad for him to make it down here. Plus, he said it’s no good because nobody ever sees your
piece.” Ty chuckled a
little. He viewed Krylon,
named because of his deluded devotion to inferior paint, as a nice guy
but kind of dim.
finally right about something. Damn,
that stink!” He and Ian
had long since stopped caring who saw their pieces, however.
Their initial interest in graffiti had been a way to combat the
anonymity of the city, to stand out in some way and distinguish
themselves, to become Kings,
to flaunt their style. That
notion had waned as the boys grew older and matured.
They no longer cared who saw their pieces now and did it solely
for the enjoyment and the art of it.
The adrenaline rush that went hand in hand with trespassing and
risking their lives to get up on increasingly dangerous places was just
an added bonus to what they viewed as a reasonable hobby that had
gradually turned into an obsession, and then into a lifestyle.
Bombing had been their chief interest from adolescence on; it
took precedence over girls, getting loaded, cars, and anything else that
the average teenage male usually dwelt upon.
None of those things really interested them or if it did, the
interest was fleeting. Bombing was life.
walked over to a ladder that ran three stories up the exterior of the
corrugated steel building that had been the warehouse of the mill.
Without a word, he started up, his messenger bag swinging,
knocking his cans of Rust-oleum together.
Ty hesitated and yelled to Ian over the wind and distance, “Are
you sure it’s safe?”
paused and turned to look at him still on the ground. “I’m pretty sure it’s not,” he said casually and
continued his ascent. Ty
took a deep breath and started up after him, glad that he had chosen the
more practical backpack that would not impede his progress nearly as
much as a messenger bag.
climb went on endlessly. By
the time Ty reached the top of the flat roofed foundry, his hands were
raw from the rusty rungs of the ladder.
Ian had already unpacked his bag and claimed his spot, a
shed-like structure that had housed a stairwell, serving as roof access
in the mill’s youth. The
door that protected the interior of the building from the elements had
long since fallen off and as Ty gazed through the gap; he saw no stairs,
just a three-story drop to the cement floor of the mill’s warehouse.
“Don’t take the stairs,” Ian warned unnecessarily, already
beginning the outlines of an ambitious burner that would easily be
recognizable from the street.
wandered off to pick his own spot, preferably somewhere the wind
wasn’t blowing the stench of industrial pollution directly into his
face, and Ian called over his shoulder, “Watch out for holes.
It’s a bit of a drop.” Ty
stopped and glanced around. When
he resumed his walk, it was with a much more cautious tread.
area that Ty claimed was where the mill’s foundry met the warehouse.
The brick building towered another story above him before giving
way to huge crumbling smokestacks.
He followed the wall until he turned the corner where the wind
wasn’t as strong, and began unpacking his gear.
From here Ty could see all of Royal Park and, across the river,
his home of Leatham. The
view was impressive; he had never seen this much of the city at one time
before and it didn’t look nearly as appalling here as it did from the
street. Turning his back on
Royal Park, and shaking the can of Rust-oleum satin finish white primer,
he began the outlines of what would be a huge burner.
The cityscape had inspired him and he felt like he had unlimited
time and space to work on the top of the building.
While he began his most ambitious project to date, he hummed Iggy
Pop’s “The Passenger” to himself.
hour later, Ty had nearly finished filling in the letters of the word
“Arrow” in a dark blue that faded to purple toward the bottom. He had been given that name by a twenty-something tagger from
the Barrio that everyone had known only as Katsu.
Katsu was one of the boys’ early mentors who had felt sorry for
two poor, white kids that everyone had labeled toys when they first
showed up to the bench at Emerson Station where all the city’s writers
congregated. He had taken
them under his wing and given them outlines to practice with.
He had even gone so far as to arrange to meet them in the train
yard, near their houses in Leatham, to help him do a two-car burner. It was the first of many trips the boys would make to that
hallowed writer’s proving ground.
of the city couldn’t help but notice when, that following Monday, one
of the lines rolled out with “At War With Society” emblazoned on the
side in bubble letters that went from the bottom of the train to the
top. On the left side of the burner was a caricature of a
stereotypical gangbanger, guns blazing and on the other side was a
writer, positioned to look like he had just finished that particular
piece. All the writers knew that it was Katsu’s style but they
were in awe of the size of it, thinking that he had done it by himself.
Katsu, proud of his two prodigies, quickly proclaimed Ty and
Ian’s involvement and the “vicious styles” they possessed.
It was Katsu who dubbed Ty “Arrow” and Ian “Krook.”
The boys’ position was solidified in the writer’s community
and their status went from “toys” to “future kings” in the
course of one Sunday evening. Ty
was still twelve and Ian had just turned thirteen at the time.
Ty was so
engrossed in his piece, which he was steadily becoming happier with,
that he didn’t notice a car pull up to the gate of the mill with its
lights off. He also failed
to hear two car doors shut about two minutes after the car arrived.
By the time he heard raised voices coming from the direction in
which he had left Ian, it was far too late to warn him about anything.
Thomas Jansen lived a sordid life before being recruited to the police
force ten years before. Jansen
had been born and raised in Royal Park and grew up quickly, full of fear
and insecurities, on its dangerous streets.
He was the eldest son of the unmarried Keisha Jansen and a large
part of the responsibilities of providing for a family of four fell upon
him early in life.
realized that the only way he would ever amount to anything in Royal
Park was either through hard work and dedication or by joining one of
the many gangs that the neighborhood had.
Needing the security and safety that his home life could not
offer him, the awkward adolescent was more than willing to pledge his
allegiance to the 5th Street Kings at age fifteen, one of the
stronger gangs in the area. The
character building activity of hard work for minimum wage had never
appealed to him and he had seen his own mother struggling to provide for
her family by working twelve-hour days and still falling behind.
The life of the hustler seemed far superior to young Jansen, and
it was within the 5th Street organization that he found his
natural calling as a sadist with a capacity for extreme violence.
moved up through the ranks of the Kings at a record pace.
Over the years, Jansen lost any of the fears he had in youth as
well as his ability to empathize with other human beings.
He established himself as an integral member of the Kings mainly
for his capacity for ruthlessness.
Jansen was the man to use if a message needed to be sent to
anyone; whether it was a rival gang, a shopkeeper who refused to pay
protection money, or a grandmother who wanted to start a neighborhood
watch, Jansen would approach his appointed task with equal parts zeal
and efficiency. For several
years, he operated within the organization without the police ever being
able to pin any of the numerous crimes he committed to him, until one
day in his twentieth year when fate intervened to turn his life
or “T” as he was known in those days, had been involved in a
drive-by against a rising New Montville gang that had vague ties to
Nuestra Familia, which had gone horribly awry.
On that fateful day, Jansen along with another boy from his
street, were the triggermen for this foray.
The driver of the vehicle was a skinny youth of about sixteen
that had recently joined the Kings.
He had an extremely nervous disposition and a budding crack
problem. Up until the
actual shooting the boy had performed admirably, he had been outwardly
calm and uncharacteristically quiet; once the actual firing had started,
though, he had panicked.
managed to hit two of the vatos, one fatally, before the remaining two
returned fire. It was at
this point that the driver lost his nerve and sped away at suicidal
speeds down the unfamiliar streets of the Barrio in a desperate attempt
to save his own skin. T was
screaming at him from the backseat to slow down which only served to
heighten the boy’s anxiety. Taking
a corner at forty-five miles per hour, the driver lost control and
slammed head on into a wall, ejecting him from the vehicle and leaving
the two shooters unconscious but relatively uninjured.
When Jansen awoke, it was in a hospital room empty except for two
members of the city’s finest.
police officers were not there to arrest him, however.
They talked to him like they were visiting a sick friend.
Jansen was wary of some kind of trap and kept his mouth shut,
determined not to give them any leverage.
He had no particular fear of jail; he was smart enough to realize
that the path he had chosen for his life would either land him there or
dead and he had accepted these risks long ago.
Eventually the conversation took an unexpected turn when the
police asked him if he wanted a job.
city’s new mayor had been elected on a platform of getting tough on
crime. Thus far, all of his
ideas had failed miserably and he had decided to take more extreme
measures. His new plan was
to recruit gang members for the police force.
This later proved to be a disaster as members of his police force
were, one after another, pinned with charges that ranged from abuse of
power, to murder, to extortion, to rape.
Once word got out of what the mayor had done, he was forced to
resign and faced corruption charges of his own.
Jansen was one of the few that excelled in his new position.
He had enough intelligence to keep his misdeeds hidden and
realized that working on this side of the law offered him many more
benefits. The talents that
he had cultivated in the 5th Street Kings served Jansen well
in his years on the force and his reputation for brutality grew.
He was known throughout his jurisdiction as one it was best to
just surrender to. Numerous
attempts to take his life had failed and the retribution for those
actions was so swift and vicious that eventually almost everyone agreed
it was far easier to just give him what he wanted and wait for him to
make an error that would land him in prison.
and his partner, a new kid named Murphy, who he was initiating into the
ways in which the Royal Park police force worked, pulled into the
abandoned mill to snort cocaine they had recently obtained from a
hustler they had picked up several blocks away.
Despite himself, Jansen was actually starting to like this white
boy who knew how to keep his mouth shut and only saw what he needed to.
They had been working together for the past two weeks and,
although it was early, Jansen believed he had found someone who he could
be comfortably partnered with. None
of the beatings, grafts, or general harassment that they had committed
during those two weeks had seemed to faze Murphy.
Plus, he was quiet and let Jansen do most of the talking, which
he liked just fine.
brought the car to stop right outside the warehouse while Murphy
produced the wrap that contained the coke and began lining it up on a
pornographic magazine they had in the cruiser.
He offered up the lines to Jansen first with the attitude of a
priest giving sacrifice to his god.
Jansen liked this too; this boy knew the hierarchy and his place
in it. He gave him a smile
as he took the magazine and inhaled two fat lines of high grade Bolivian
cocaine before handing it back to his partner.
Throwing his head back onto the seat rest of the Crown Victoria
cruiser, Jansen yelled out, “God damn!” as the coke took affect.
Murphy, with his typical understatement simply said, “Wow.
two sat in silence for a bit, and looked out over the ruin of the mill
toward the river while the drug washed over them in waves of increasing
intensity. Jansen suddenly
sat bolt upright, turned to his partner and said with an unexpected
girlish giggle, “That is the shit, now, Murph.
I gotta piss.” Murphy nodded at him. Jansen smiled at Murphy’s wide eyed stare.
He was gritting his teeth together so hard that Jansen wondered
if they would crack. Jansen
opened the car door laughing at his partner’s inexperience with the
uncut coke he was used to and stepped out to relieve himself in the
shadows near the warehouse. He
had been coming to this secluded location for a little while now when he
needed what he called “me time.”
Since Jansen’s take over, the mill had earned a reputation as a
place to be avoided during the night lest one run into him—something
that no one wanted.
Jansen was buttoning his fly, he heard a faint hissing noise that he at
first attributed to the cocaine. Man
that stuff got all over me, he thought as he headed back toward his
cruiser. He was just about
to open the door when he heard the unmistakable sound of a spray paint
can being shaken. As he
opened the door to grab his partner he thought to himself that this
night might get interesting after all.
watched helplessly as the two cops moved in on Ian.
He recognized the bigger one as Jansen.
Everyone knew Jansen. He
was one of the reasons that Ty and Ian had gotten up less in Royal Park
then in any other area of the city.
Ty could not hear what they were saying from this distance but he
knew from the attitude of the cops that things were not going to go
well. The chance that Jansen and his partner would simply run Ian
in on vandalism charges was slim. Jansen
did not work that way, preferring instead to deliver his own method of
punishment, which all those on the opposite side of the law had either
experienced or heard of, rather than tying up the court system with
far Jansen had kept back, pacing near the ladder, the only way off the
roof, while his partner first screamed at Ian and then made threatening
gestures with his drawn nightstick.
Ty could tell that something about this was not right but he
couldn’t tell if they were high or rabid.
The white cop was unusually aggressive even for a Royal Park cop.
Their posture and lack of focus in any direction other than
Ian’s showed Ty that they thought they were alone.
Ty knew he should be trying to find his own way of escape—the
unwritten rule of writing was every man for himself once the police
became involved—but he couldn’t take his eyes off the scene
unfolding before him. Fear
for his best friend’s safety filled his soul and it was as if all the
joints in his body refused to surrender to the instinctual flight signal
that his brain was sending him. He
could no more run than he could turn away from the scene unfolding
Ian had spoken calmly to
the two cops and had kept his hands in sight during the entire exchange
but it did not have the desired effect; the more soothingly he spoke the
more of a frenzy he provoked in the white cop whom Ty had never seen.
Ian was in the middle of responding to something Jansen had asked
him when, without any warning, the white cop lunged forward and struck
him in the left knee with his nightstick.
Jansen laughed loudly while the other officer rained blows down
on Ian with all his force. Jansen
then stepped forward and put a hand on his partners shoulder saying
something in a low tone as the white cop staggered back out of breath.
Jansen got low on one knee and then said something to Ian in the
same voice he used on his partner.
Through the pain and broken teeth, Ty heard Ian laugh a little
before saying flatly, “Fuck you, Jansen.”
Officer Thomas Jansen
sighed and stood up. He
turned his back on Ian and looked out over the city as if he was
offended by this boy’s lack of courtesy.
Ian had managed to pull himself up into a sitting position with
his back against the wall. While Jansen was lost in thought, Ian cast a glance toward
the place where Ty was hidden in the shadows, hugging the wall closely.
Ty felt like his heart was being ripped from his chest as he saw
the pain and danger that Ian was in, yet there was nothing he could do.
He felt powerless, alone, and terrified and could only watch as
Jansen stepped back over to Ian, grabbed him by his shirt, and pulled
him up so they were face to face; an action that left Ian’s feet
dangling several inches from the ground.
He then smashed his forehead into Ian’s nose and watched as the
boy gasped for breath through the pain and shock of the blow.
Jansen then drew him within an inch of his own face, said a few
words through clenched teeth, and absently tossed him over the side of
the roof with the manner of a child who has just broken a toy that he
never really liked to begin with.
where he was hidden, Ty collapsed to his knees. No tears came but numbness crept into him as he tried to
process the image of Ian frozen in the air, his eyes wide with animal
terror, his arms pinioning helplessly, before disappearing from his
view. Worse was the sound
of the impact that Ian’s body made when it finished its descent.
That noise would haunt him more than else anything in the coming
days. It would return to
him unbidden and echo though his skull in an endless loop that very
nearly drove him mad.
with grief, fear, and rage, Ty lost consciousness. When he came to, the sun was beginning to rise amidst the
smog of the awakening city. He
was completely and utterly alone.
Ian’s funeral the following Tuesday drew a small turnout of
friends, mostly other writers, but no immediate family.
Mia had gone to Beth’s apartment in Royal Park on Sunday
morning to inform her of her son’s death only to find the door off the
hinges and no signs of occupancy. None
of the neighbors Mia spoke to even knew the woman she was talking about.
Feeling that Ian was more her son than Beth’s anyway, Mia
arranged and paid for all of the funeral arrangements.
Ty had not eaten or slept since the incident.
He was tortured by guilt at what he had seen and his cowardice in
not aiding his friend and the feeling that everything that was good in
life had died with Ian. He
had not spoken to anyone since explaining to his mother, through sobs
and obscenities, what had happened that night, and he stayed mostly in
his room where he could leaf through Ian’s notebook of pieces and the
pictures they had taken of burners since developing their interest in
So it was to Mia’s great surprise when Ty came into the kitchen
on Wednesday evening fully dressed and informed her that he was going
out for a bit. “Where?”
Mia had asked.
“Emerson. To the bench,” Ty replied.
Ever since graffiti had become the activity of choice for many of
the city’s youth, writers had gathered at a bench at Emerson Station
several times a week to discuss bombing, show each other pieces they
were working on, and to generally just enjoy the camaraderie that shared
interests invoked. The
“Writer’s Guild,” as it came to be known, was where Ian and Ty had
met most of the people that they considered their friends and where they
were treated with the respect that their talent had earned them.
Mia was well aware that her son was a writer of no small
reputation in the city and, while she didn’t approve of the activity,
she thought that it was better that she knew what he was doing rather
than not. She also knew her
son well enough to know that if she had refused to allow him to go, he
would simply sneak out and do it anyway. There were many other activities Ty could have engaged in
that were worse and so they had developed an understanding long ago that
he could continue as long as he didn’t draw the attention of the
police. This arrangement
had been extended to Ian too after he had moved in and the two of them
going out together had actually made Mia more comfortable with the
boy’s nocturnal escapades. She
recognized that Ian was much more cautious and street wise than her son
and felt that the two of them would be in less danger if they were
together. Her attitude had
changed after Ian’s death, however, and her blood ran cold at the
mention of the bench.
“No, Ty. Don’t,” she said, tears welling in her eyes.
Ty stood before his mother where she was sitting at the table; he
was unable to come up with any words that would console her or explain
why he felt he had to go. Mia had quietly started to cry while her son’s cold, dead
eyes continued to gaze unseeingly at her.
She reached out to him and grabbed his hand.
He did not return the pressure she applied but just stood there
as if waiting for her to finish. She
was extremely worried about his mental state; he had not shown any type
of emotion since Saturday morning when he had awakened her with his
incoherent yelling. With
some effort, Ty removed his mother’s hand and put his own on her
shoulder. “I’m sorry,
mom, but I’m going. I’ll
see you when I get back.” He
then turned and walked through the kitchen and out the back door.
He heard Mia exhale a loud sob before the door shut and cut off
her grief. He didn’t turn
It was a somber meeting of the Guild that Wednesday night.
Ty sat surrounded by friends who had greeted him warmly but he
had said very little. He
had explained the murder briefly to a couple of the writers that had
shown up for the funeral and word had traveled fast to all parts of the
city. Most writers who had
come this evening considered this a meeting to discuss what should be
done to avenge Ian. Ty
wasn’t aware of this plan. He
wasn’t sure why he had bothered to show up and desperately wanted to
leave and be alone but couldn’t muster the energy to get up and do so.
He sat watching the trains as they came through the station,
occasionally greeting people as they showed up and offered condolences.
Everyone knew that Ty and Ian were like brothers and from his
attitude they knew he was taking the loss hard.
Very few of them had the imagination to put themselves in his
position, to picture the vision of your best friend being murdered right
before your eyes while you watched helplessly.
Those that possessed that ability sat near him in silence, hoping
that their presence would help soothe him.
Everyone solemnly sat talking in low murmurs until Noc and his
crew came in. Noc was a
middle class white kid from Leland Heights, the neighborhood west of
downtown. Noc sported a
bright pink Mohawk, a loudmouth, and an obnoxious crew of toys.
Their presence at the bench was barely tolerated at the best of
times and for Ty, they were more than he could stand today.
Standing up, he turned to Krylon and said, “I’m out.
Take it easy, Kry.”
looked at him startled and said in his slow, thick voice, “Yeah, Ty.
It was good to see you. Let’s
go out and bomb some night.” The
two slapped hands and as Ty turned to walk away, he came face to face
with Noc who had walked directly through the crowd, without greeting
anyone, to confront Ty. “Noc,”
Ty said simply and made to walk around him.
“Hold up, Arrow,” Noc said loudly.
Ty cringed. He hated
when people called him Arrow. He
was proud of the name he threw up everywhere and had made famous but he
hated for it to be used to refer to him in person. Both he and Ian had made that abundantly clear many times
before at the bench but the only one the message was lost on was Noc.
“What happened on Friday?” Noc demanded from him
eerie silence descended over the platform as the two youths looked at
each other hostilely. Ty
refused to break the eye contact and said nothing.
“You know what happened. Jansen
killed him,” a deep voice said from somewhere in the crowd.
At the mention of Jansen’s name, Krylon said, “Motherfucker,”
under his breath as if to complete an unfinished sentence.
Noc ignored him and continued to look at Ty as if it was he that
had said it and continued, “Where were you?
Why didn’t you do something?”
was Krylon who said what everyone was thinking.
“What was he supposed to do?
They’re cops, man. They
would have killed both of them.”
Noc turned on him and fixed him with a glare that Krylon
couldn’t return. He then
turned to the rest of the assembled writers and said loudly, “Well,
what the hell are we going to do about it?
This is never forgive action.
These pigs have declared war.
It’s time to make them pay.”
Low voices were heard throughout the group while Noc rummaged in
his bag and withdrew a copy of The Anarchist Cookbook, a
field manual for dissidents first published in 1971 that outlined ways
of making various explosives and how to effectively wage warfare on
“the system.” Noc had
gotten the book from Ian about a year ago after he had bought it from
Hiram, his boss at Abraham’s. Hiram
had sold it to him only after he had received Ian’s solemn vow that he
would not try any of the “recipes” in it.
Hiram was convinced that the book had been published by the CIA
in order to eliminate potential domestic terrorists by giving
instructions on how to make unstable devices that were more likely to
blow the would be revolutionary’s faces off then their intended
targets. Hiram had told Ian
that the book should only be given to his enemies.
After Ian and Ty had perused the book for a couple weeks, Ian had
sold it to Noc at one of the guild meetings.
say we go into the Park precinct and leave them a little gift,” Noc
said holding the book up for effect.
Ty rolled his eyes and shook his head.
He couldn’t believe this idiot rich kid who thought it was that
easy. He was surprised when
no one else said anything. Noc
took this silence to mean that some of them were behind him and
continued. “We gotta send
a message. Make the pigs
pay. Never fuckin’
forgive action,” he repeated.
couldn’t take it anymore and all the emotions that he had held back
for the past several days came out in white-hot rage.
“Shut up, you fucking toy!
You’re not gonna’ do anything.
Take your bullshit revolution and sell it to the other punk-ass
rich kids in the suburbs, motherfucker!”
Tears were streaming down his face.
He wanted to rip this guy apart and throw his worthless carcass
on the tracks. Noc and his
crew turned their attention toward him again and advanced.
Ty stood his ground welcoming the confrontation.
He may have been powerless against Jansen but not against this
clown. Although he knew he would get beaten badly once Noc’s
friends decided to jump in and stomp him, he wasn’t afraid. Ty thought that the physical punishment he was about to take
would be worth it if he could just shut Noc up. Permanently, if he could.
unexpectedly took charge. He
abruptly stood up, grabbed Ty by the arm, and quickly walked through the
platform, leading him up to the street.
No one made any effort to stop them.
“It’s not right, man. It’s
not right,” Krylon mumbled quietly again and again, like a litany. Ty wasn’t sure if he was referring to Ian’s death,
Noc’s out of order behavior, or something else entirely that only
Krylon was aware of; it was hard to know what went on in Krylon’s
mind. On the street Ty shrugged Krylon off and walked away, toward
home, crying uncontrollably. He
felt like he was going to vomit and wished that Krylon would have stayed
out of it and let him work some of the pain he felt out of his system by
inflicting it on one who deeply deserved it.
He heard Krylon shout his name behind him but he didn’t stop. He wandered the streets for about an hour before calming
himself down enough to go home—he didn’t want to upset his mother
any more than he already had. During
his walk, Ty came up with his own plan for revenge.
It struck him with some irony that an idiot like Noc had given
him the idea.
following Friday, Ty waited until he was sure Mia was asleep before
creeping downstairs. There
was no need to tell her of his plans for the evening as he normally did.
It would only upset her and the last thing he wanted was a bout
of tearful pleas. He was
halfway through the open door when it occurred to him that he should
leave a note to her on the off chance that she would awaken and find him
gone. As he stood in the
doorway, feeling the night’s cool breeze blowing over his exposed
arms, he contemplated the dangers inherent in what he had planned; there
was a decent chance that he wouldn’t come back.
Tearing off a sheet of paper from Ian’s notebook that he had in
his bag, along with his paint, he wrote a note in his small, ordered
Mom, Bombing. Be
home soon. I love you.
stood up from the table and exhaled a heavy sigh.
He looked around the kitchen slowly and absently folded the piece
of paper in half. On the
opposite side of the paper was the word Krook.
Ty was startled when he recognized that it was the piece Ian had
been working on when he was killed.
He stood up from the table and walked out the door purposefully.
By the time he caught the last train to Royal Park he thought
that he had managed to calm himself down enough to complete his goal.
was crouched in an alley that opened up to the back of the fifth
precinct building in Royal Park. This was where Jansen worked.
had been watching the back for over an hour and had only seen two people
in that time. Both were
uniformed officers who exited out the back together and turned the
corner, disappearing out of his sight, talking and laughing. Ty assumed that this was a shift change.
He estimated the time to be somewhere near two in the morning.
where he sat amidst the filth and garbage of the city, watching intently
for any signs of life from the precinct, he chose his spot on the third
floor. It was between two
barred windows where no lights shone. The space between the windows was only about ten feet, which
was less space than he wanted but it was the best place he could find on
the wall. There was a
narrow ledge, about a foot wide, that ran all around the third floor. Ty had worked off of ledges far narrower in the past so he
wasn’t too worried about his footing.
The bars on the windows would also be convenient for him to grab
while he worked and allow him to lean away from the wall and gain
perspective as the piece took shape.
This really is a pretty good spot, Ty thought to himself
and grew fidgety, anxious to start.
He then remembered what this building housed and what the
repercussions would be if he were caught here and he forced himself to
calm down and wait ten more minutes just to be sure that the two
officers he had seen were the only ones that were going to exit out the
he waited, Ty examined the building in more detail, planning, for about
the fifth time, how he would get up to the spot he had chosen.
The precinct building was as old and decrepit as all of the other
buildings in Royal Park. While
most of the city’s other precincts had been renovated and turned into
modern fortresses, complete with security cameras whose unblinking eyes
captured everything that occurred on the building’s exterior, and
endless series of locked, steel doors, this one had remained untouched
since the late sixties when the city had finally updated the plumbing
and electrical systems to bring it, more or less, up to code.
Apart from the bars on the windows and chicken wire that
reinforced the glass on the doors, the precinct looked just about like
any other building in the neighborhood, except that this one was
conspicuously absent of graffiti.
was a dumpster at the corner of the building directly below a rusted
downspout. He thought that
he would climb up the dumpster and ascend the pipe, assuming that it
would hold his weight. It
all looked relatively easy and routine.
Unable to wait any longer, Ty left the alley and approached the
corner of the building. As
he boosted himself up onto the dumpster, he glanced in it and saw a huge
old console television just like the one that had stood in his living
room for years. He smiled as he thought about what Jefferson Hoff,
environmental doomsayer, would have to say if he saw this; a large,
angry chapter of his book was devoted to the amount of consumer
electronics, with all their poisonous components, being deposited into
American landfills. Ty paused on top of the dumpster remembering for the first
time that he had never completed Schmidt’s paper.
He shrugged as he started his climb; it didn’t seem important
anymore. The climb was
uneventful and he shuffled out onto the ledge to his designated space
between the two windows in less than half a minute.
soon as Ty began the outline of his piece his mind immediately found
peace for the first time since Ian had been killed.
The hiss of the can soothed him and he was able to focus only on
what he was doing at the moment. Writing
had always been his escape; when he was deeply engrossed in the task of
getting up he found that all of the things that troubled his thoughts at
other times were pushed to the back of his mind.
It didn’t matter that he had heard nothing of his father for
five years, or that he had no definitive plans for his future, or that
his few relationships with girls had ended in disaster and heartbreak.
All of these things took a backseat.
Poised on a narrow ledge three stories above the pavement, with
nothing to slow his fall if he lost his footing, Ty entered a trancelike
state where the only things that existed for him were the can in his
hand and the wall before him.
and Ian often worked together on larger pieces so it was not that hard
for him to imitate Ian’s style flawlessly.
He guessed that very few people would be able to tell that Ian
had not done the finished piece, which was exactly what he wanted
everyone who saw it to think. His
reasons for taking this unprecedented risk were partly selfish, but also
something larger that he couldn’t quite put into words.
He saw his actions as partially motivated by revenge, one that
Ian would deeply approve of and much more fitting than Noc’s suburban
commando raid; Ian had never been a violent individual and senseless
violence that endangered other people disgusted him.
Ty also knew that this was a way to atone for his cowardice for
not aiding Ian that fateful Friday night.
He was pretty sure that Ian would have been furious with him if
he had tried to intervene but that knowledge had not eased the guilt
that he harbored within. He
needed this piece to serve as a memorial to Ian but he also needed to
purge his conscience. He
knew that Ian would understand all of these conflicting thoughts without
having to have them explained to him.
Ty felt his chest constrict with grief at the thought of Ian and
he wondered if he would ever be able to connect with another human being
on the same level again.
was not the place to dwell on things of that nature.
Gripping the bars to his right with his right hand, he leaned
back and continued writing with his left.
To compensate for the small size of the piece, Ty had made it as
elaborate as he felt he could without staying too long.
The burner jumped off the wall with some technical 3D effects and
had multiple arrows that ran through it and tied it all together.
He had chosen this piece to put up over all the others in Ian’s
notebook mainly because it was a good representative of his work and
because he had told Ty that it was one he hadn’t painted before
because he hadn’t found the “right spot” for it.
This was another of Ian’s peculiarities, most of the city’s
other writers put whatever piece wherever they could; for Ian, the piece
always had to fit the location. Ty
wasn’t exactly sure what criteria he used to determine this but in his
mind, this was the perfect spot for this small burner.
guessed that he had been on the wall for about a half an hour by the
cramps that were starting to develop in his legs.
He felt like he wasn’t finished, that it wasn’t grand enough,
but that he would be pushing his luck if he stayed any longer.
Taking a can of black, he wrote R.I.P. in small, style-less
letters in the lower right hand corner of the finished product.
No one would be able to see them from the street.
to his left along the ledge, Ty was eager to get down into the alley and
admire his work for a while before he disappeared into the anonymity of
the city again. The pipe groaned under Ty’s weight but managed to hold him.
He hadn’t noticed it on the way up but the pipe was in bad
shape, rusted through in several spots.
Saying a silent prayer to St. Valspar, Ian’s imaginary saint
whose influence protected all writers from harm, Ty released his hold on
the rusty pipe when he was about two feet above the dumpster.
impact that his booted feet made on the partially opened steel lid
shifted the console television which prematurely detonated the homemade
explosive devise that had been placed at the bottom of the dumpster
sometime around 11:30 that evening. The blast expelled most of the dumpster’s contents straight
up and threw Ty high into the air where he landed in the middle of the
alley directly in front of the back door of the station.
noise from the blast had ruptured his eardrums and the debris had torn
open his flesh in numerous spots. He
was sure that he was dead and felt a strange calm come over him.
Noc, he thought.
I guess he was really
serious. He was
mildly amused at this fact as he lay on his side, bleeding profusely.
I didn’t think he had
it in him.
rolled over onto his back amidst the flaming trash of the alley with
tremendous difficulty. He
felt the pain associated with torn and broken limbs for the first time
and realized with surprise that he wasn’t dead yet.
He looked up toward the building and thought he saw someone on
the ledge he had just left, examining his handiwork.
“Yeah. Not bad,
son,” the figure said looking down at Ty from the lofty height and
giving him a lopsided grin before fading into nothing.
laughed a hoarse, croaking laugh that was abruptly cut short when the
flaming remains of the console television landed on his chest and the
boy who made the name Arrow famous throughout the city knew no more.
the chaos of that early morning, Ty’s work on the wall of the Fifth
Precinct in Royal Park went unnoticed by police officers and firemen
alike. The city’s writers
informed by Krylon all made pilgrimages to see it, however, and the
legend grew. Noc’s bomb
had managed to blow the lid off the dumpster and scorch the corner of
the brick building but little more.
In the excitement of spotting “Krook” emblazoned defiantly on
the third floor, Noc’s ineffectual actions against the police were
quickly forgotten although the consequences of those actions were not.
he and his cronies made their way through Emerson Park the next week, on
their way to the Writer’s Guild, they were stopped by four masked
figures that blocked their path. Turning
around to run, Noc saw a dozen more similarly clad figures materialize
out of the gloom. Noc’s fear grew as all of those confronting him stood in
silence. He could see that
some of them carried pipes, chains, and other blunt instruments. He tried to stammer something but was cut off when one of the
dark figures stepped forward and said, slowly and thickly, “Never
forgive action, Noc,” before all of them advanced upon him and his
crew like silent shadows. No
one saw any of them anywhere near Emerson Station or the bench ever
the end of the week, the city’s graffiti had completely changed as all
the writers started to put up the same message.
In every neighborhood of the city, from Leathem to Leland
Heights, on every train car, on multiple walls on every block, on
abandoned vehicles waiting to be towed, on every park bench, burners and
throws appeared proclaiming, “Long Live the Kings.”
was years before subsequent generations of writers, those that had never
known Ian or Ty nor heard the names Arrow or Krook, or city employees,
who neither knew nor cared, had managed to cover them all beneath layers
 An individual piece of graffiti
 Painting graffiti
 I.e. to get ones name up
 Large, elaborate pieces of graffiti; not to be confused with a “throw” which is a small piece that can be done quickly, often just an outline, and lacks the intricacies of the “burner”
 Intoxicated; typically associated with heroin.
 Graffiti artist
 Generic term for any work of graffiti; also used as a verb to mean painting graffiti, i.e. “to piece”
 “Posers” or unskilled graffiti artists
 Term used to designate a master graffiti artist